24 August 2009
Report: posing for The Adipositivity Project 2009
At the beginning of August I was lucky enough to find myself in a ramshackle back yard in the further reaches of Red Hook, Brooklyn, with three of the most rad fatties on earth.
You may not know this, but Substantia Jones has an ongoing photo series called The Adipositivity Project. The project's website has over three hundred of Substantia's photographs, mostly of fat women, I think. The portraits of fat bodies are beyond sublime. Some are naked, some are not, some are body parts, some are ensemble pieces with several people.
I've seen a lot of fat people in my time but this work shows fat bodies in new ways, as real, embodied, and beautiful. I don't mean beautiful like a boring model in a magazine, but a kind of rich beauty, a beauty of the body. If ever you are having a bad fat day, you could do a lot worse than go and browse the archives. Hell, have a look even if you are feeling perfectly fine about yourself, why not?
A note: for various reasons Substantia shoots people anonymously. You all know what I think about headless fatties, but this is different: the people in Substantia's world are not stereotypes, the photographs are taken with great respect for fat bodies, it's not about cheap profiteering photojournalism, and there is this little thing involved called consent.
So, on this hot afternoon, the four of us got to work making some pictures together, I'm sure you'll see more of them in due course. I don't want to say too much about it because I think stories or background might get in the way of the photographs. Even though it's clearly me in this picture, I like the idea that it could be anyone, any Chubster. Let your imagination run riot, that's what it's there for.
I think about how fatness is so often culturally constructed as a tragedy, a terrible pity, a horror. This comes back to me all the time, it's always a shock to see that hatred and disgust manifest itself. As I write this I am being spammed by weight loss ads on my webmail, complete with before/after photographs of sad fat people. I remember a moment a long time ago when somebody put their hand over my body in a picture, so that just my head peeked out, and told me my face was so pretty that no-one would even notice my body. I know a lot of people of all sizes who can't bear to see photographs of themselves, and won't let them be taken.
Knowing all of this, it's funny seeing myself in the picture alongside all the other photographs in the project. Funny in a good way. I know that being fat is not a tragedy, quite the opposite for me, many great things have come my way because of how I regard my own fatness and that of other people. I feel proud to have been able to support Substantia's work, with my body no less! It feels so good to see the aesthetic value of my own body, made so explicit, and presented in a way that is meaningful to me and respectful too, it's such a rare treat for fat people. Lucky me, lucky lucky me.
Posted by Dr Charlotte Cooper at 17:50